One of the centerpiece projects of the 2015 Move Seattle transportation levy was the final piece of funding for a pedestrian-only bridge across Interstate 5 adjacent to Northgate light rail station, set to open in 2021. Without a pedestrian connection created across the freeway, the walkshed around the station would be severely limited by the small number of streets that connect Northgate to the neighborhoods to the west. A pedestrian bridge will be a great amenity for walkability in Northgate.

But as this project has been going through its stages to full design, it has changed a bit in the process. Originally, the bridge was envisioned as having a 20-foot-wide walkway for cyclists and pedestrians, with an enclosed, tubular design for the main bridge. This bridge design took 2,100 feet to get from end to end.

Original tube/truss bridge design. (Seattle Design Commission)

In 2016, the project went on hold and underwent a feasibility analysis, which found that the bridge would go significantly over budget, mostly due to the design, which would have required on-site fabrication of bridge segments.

A new design team came back with another bridge design, which ditched the closed tubes and replaced it with an open bridge that reduces the walkway width to 16 feet, and the total bridge length down to 1,600 feet.

The new plans for the Northgate pedestrian bridge plan an open bridge as pictured. (City of Seattle)

On the Northgate side, the bridge will be directly connected to the light rail station, with most bridge users continuing into the station from the bridge. There will also be a ramp that connects to NE 100th St, which is slated to get a protected bike lane in 2019, adding to the bike-friendly nature of the pedestrian bridge.

Map of the Northgate light rail station and pedestrian bridge. (City of Seattle)

This map shows the proposed bike facilities in the area of Northgate station. Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is currently planning a greenway route to connect to the facilities already planned, and has funding for the first phase of a “most promising route” in the Northgate area, with the second phase coming later.

Bike routes planned around Northgate. (City of Seattle)

An open house on the pedestrian bridge and adjacent greenway plans is happening tonight at the Hampton Inn & Suites at 9550 1st Ave NE. You can drop in anytime between 5.30pm and 7.30pm. There is also an online open house to walk you though the updated plans.

As Seattle’s northernmost urban center, Northgate will need to make huge strides toward becoming more walk and bike friendly in advance of light rail service beginning there in 2021. SDOT appears to be doing the groundwork to get ready for that, and encouragement is needed as always to ensure that they stay the course.

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Ryan Packer lives in the Summit Slope neighborhood of Capitol Hill and has been writing for the The Urbanist since 2015. They report on multimodal transportation issues, #VisionZero, preservation, and local politics. They believe in using Seattle's history to help attain the vibrant, diverse city that we all wish to inhabit. Ryan's writing has appeared in Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, Bike Portland, and Seattle Bike Blog, where they also did a four-month stint as temporary editor.